Pura Vida From a Day Volunteer, Maddie Abene
By Maddie Abene
Soothing sounds, beautiful views, diverse wildlife, and only a week to take it all in!? Costa Rica
is unlike any place I’ve ever been. Upon my arrival, my mind was racing with ideas of how I was
going to get the very most out of my trip. As an Environmental Studies Major at University of
California Santa Cruz, I’m typically curious about different ecosystems and eager to interact
with wildlife wherever I am in the world. The two-hour drive from San Jose Airport gave me
plenty of time to take in the scenery of the mountainous jungle and ask my driver Oscar any
and all questions I had about Costa Rica. I learned everything from the
economic/environmental effects of Costa Rica's biggest industry (Palm Oil) to what species of
tree leaves I should use to make henna-like face paint (Teak).
Excited to learn more about my home for the week, I did some research and found a nearby
animal rescue center that I could volunteer at: Kids Saving The Rainforest. I was excited to hear
from locals that this sanctuary is one of the most renowned in all of Costa Rica! I immediately
contacted the president and Operational Director of KSTR, Jennifer and Chip. They responded
promptly and were very helpful. To my surprise, my younger brothers, Jake and Max, wanted to
join me in this adventure. KSTR sent a taxi to pick us up early Monday morning. The drive
through the palm tree forest was scenic and bumpy. There were water buffalo hauling carts of
the palm fruits and goats crossing constantly.
We arrived at KSTR/Blue Banyan Inn around 9am and started off with a tour to become familiar
with the site and what our mission would be for the day. As soon as the tour came to an end
our work began. Our mentor gave us rubber gloves and brushes and led us to a large cage
where we would clean and design a new habitat for the Kinkajous. These small mammals are
adorable yet vicious as they're nocturnal and don't like to be bothered during the daytime. The
zookeeper and another KSTR staff member handled these animals regularly and made it look
easy. Once the Kinkajous were out of their cage is when Jake, Max and I cut zip ties, removed all
the old branches, took to ground and got to scrubbing. Before we knew it the habitat went
from looking like a 3 star residence at best to 5 stars, complete with clean walls/floors and fresh
branches strategically placed for the Kinkajous climbing enjoyment. It was important that we
made their new habitat slightly different than the last since these animals need some variation
in their lives to mimic the constantly changing and growing rainforest.
It was getting humid and I was getting tired...lunch couldn't have come at a better time! KSTR
provided us with a delicious typical Costa Rican meal of beans and rice, chicken, salad, and
plenty of beverages. We spent some time refueling and chatting it up with Chip and the other
volunteer siblings who were coincidentally visiting from the Bay Area. I was particularly
impressed by their involvement with KSTR and the video chatting they do with other kids from
all over, spreading the word about the cause. I'm hoping to join forces with them once we're all
back in the Bay. After finishing lunch and taking a quick dip in the pool, it was time for us to
feed the animals. Some went to the kitchen to chop up fruits and vegetables. The other half of
us went with the sanctuary manager to find and capture giant Golden Orb Spiders (which is way
more fun than it sounds). Once we had about ten spiders in a bucket we were ready to go. We
went from cage to cage filling each animals bowl and feeding them spiders by hand. In the
midst of it all it began to rain and we were all laughing, dripping wet, and having the best time
ever. We proceeded to clean up our messes then and walked back to the main lodge where we
would finish up around 4pm.
Costa Rica will take me a lifetime to explore to my full satisfaction. In just one day on July 11
Kids Saving The Rainforest Sanctuary & Rescue Center gave me my first real opportunity to do
more than just admire and understand nature through a textbook or a tour. I felt like I played
a vital role in an ecosystem. It was rewarding to see the difference that our single day
of volunteering made. This was a pivotal experience for me in that it helped me to discover
myself. I now know for a fact that environmentalism is my calling and my niche.
I'm very grateful for KSTR and all of the work they continue to do to inspire people to preserve
and protect this small but important part of the world. I hope to spread this mentality on a
global scale by sharing my experience and educating others about the ways to make a positive
change through ecotourism. It's important to remember that we affect nature as much as
it affects us.
Hi again Quepolandia readers! It’s Karma, the spokeskid from
Kids Saving the Rainforest!
This month I have a very important message to share with you, and that is about the importance of boating safety and protecting the
very special marine animals that share this beautiful place in the world with all of us.
I learned this lesson from a graceful animal called the sea
turtle! Let me tell you how it happened: Recently, me and my
amazing mama were walking on the beach when we came across two lifeguards carrying something large out of the water. We went over to see what it was, and we realized it was a large Hawksbill sea turtle!
There were three big gashes cut into the shell. We hoped at first that we could call one of the groups in the area that work with sea
turtles to help rescue it. Unfortunately, this poor turtle was already dead and it was too late to help her. We asked one of the lifeguards named Jhonny Lopez, what had happened.
Jhonny teaches surfing lessons, and he also volunteers his time
as a lifeguard helping keep everyone safe on the beach. He explained
to us that the turtle had been sliced by the propeller of a boat and had
washed up on shore. Some people were not showing any respect to
the body, bothering it a lot, and he and the other lifeguard had
moved it to safety while the turtle was reported to MINAE, the
government agency who helps wildlife. My mama had their number
in her phone, so she sent a message right away!
Jhonny told us that many boats and jet skis come way too close
in the waves to the shore, and that is very dangerous for both
animals and people! He said this poor turtle might have been coming
in to shore to lay her eggs. Sea turtles always return to the beach they
were hatched in to lay their eggs, and this turtle Mama might have
been coming to this very same beach for years and years before the
boat took her life!
That was a very sad experience, but it was also a lesson. I knew I
was on the beach that day and saw the turtle for a reason, and now I
am going to spread her message and try to make a difference for all
the other amazing sea turtles who are still here with us.
Turtles all around the world are beginning to fade from this
planet. Danger from boats is just one of the threats they face.
First things first is marine debris. Due to littering, trash is
infesting the oceans, causing animals like turtles to come across it
very often. For a turtle, one of the main problems are plastic bags.
One of a turtle's main food source are jellyfish. And from a turtle's
point of view a plastic bag looks identical to a jellyfish. If the turtle
eats the plastic bag it will end up choking. They can also get caught in
all that plastic, stopping them from being able to swim, eat, or even
live! If you are fishing, make sure you don’t drop fishing hooks or
lines into the ocean as these are very dangerous to animals. Around
100,000 marine animals die a year from marine debris.
Lots of people every year travel to Costa Rica just to see sea
turtles lay their eggs, and later to watch the babies hatch and make
their way out into their ocean home. In November, I am very lucky I
will be joining my school Life Project Education to see some of these
baby hatchlings going out to the ocean for the first time! We will be
working with another great non-profit helping wildlife in this area,
the Matapalo Sea Turtle Conservation Project!
But we have to think of the turtles all the time, not just when we
can see them! If you are boating or using a jet ski, pay extra careful
attention to where you are going and avoid hitting any marine life
that might be floating there in the water! Slow down, and avoid
boating over beds of sea grass which is the sea turtle’s habitat! Have a
person on board whose job it is to watch out for any marine animals.
They can wear polarized sunglasses to cut down on the glare of the
sunlight on the water, making it easier for them to spot an animal
and avoid hitting it!
Don’t have lights on the beach at night. This can confuse turtles
who use the light of the moon to find their way to the water. Even
bonfires during nesting season can lead these turtles in the wrong
Last but not least, spread the word! If you see a problem like I
did, speak up and do something about it! The planet needs the help of
people like us who want to make it a better place!
Don’t forget, if you find orphaned or injured wildlife, send a
WhatsApp message to the Kids Saving the Rainforest veterinary
team at 88-ANIMAL and we can help! You can also take a guided tour
of our Wildlife Sanctuary every day except Tuesday at 9 am to meet
some amazing animals and learn about the important work we are
doing trying to save them. You never know, you might just see me
Photograph of Hawksbill sea turtle courtesy of Jhonny Lopez.
Dorothy is a two-fingered sloth female we received one month ago.
Unfortunately she wanted to cross the main Manuel Antonio road by an electric wire. She got electrocuted and fell on the road, so a kind person brought her quickly to the center. Electrocution cases are random; they can be really superficial or really deep, and the damage is sometimes only visible after days past the electrocution. 😢
For this wonderful female, the first day we could only see where the electricity passed through the body, but several days later, we realized the real damages. The electrical burning and necrosis of tissue that sometimes continues can slow the natural healing process of wounds...and it is very painful that we can sometimes only assist her through it. Until a few days ago, Dorothy fought to remain alive, but unfortunately the wounds and probably more internal damages caused her death.
It’s not always a « happy ending » for all of our patients here in the Wildlife Clinic, and the death is not easy to accept after 1 month trying to save her...but sometimes we have to. We keep fighting every day to bring freedom again, to the wildlife we can save, in the best way as we can.🌳💐🌈
Pets are incredible. But not all are treated equally. Some animals have a terrible start in life and the fortunes of others can take a turn for the worst. Many find themselves in rescue centres waiting to be placed in a new home.
Adopting one of these pets can be hugely rewarding. You’ll not only develop a close bond but witness them grow in confidence and happiness. There are thousands of dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals looking for a fresh start in life. And you could be their new best friend.
Before you adopt
In Nuevo Colon, Guanacaste, a wildlife bridge broke from overuse, forcing the wildlife to travel on the live wires killing 3 howler monkeys. KSTR was able to rally the troops and within 16 hours it was fixed and ready for the howlers again! A big thank you to ICE, especially Jaime Bolanos and Jose Carvajal, to CoopeGuanacaste and Gerry Boule for working with KSTR to save the wildlife.
Kids Saving The Rainforest Succeeds in